The Hard Tackle looks at three players Newcastle United should target in the summer transfer window, with Eddie Howe keen on bolstering his squad.

Newcastle United have been linked with several top players over the past few months as they are expected to have big plans for the upcoming summer transfer window. The Tyneside outfit went on a shopping spree in the January transfer window, forking out a whopping £90 million on Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Matt Targett, Bruno Guimaraes, and Chris Wood.

It would not be surprising if Newcastle continue to splurge the cash when the transfer window reopens in the summer. Of course, their first priority must be to stay in the Premier League. In that aspect, Newcastle United have come on leaps and bounds.

Newcastle are on the cusp of retaining their Premier League status thanks to their excellent form since the turn of the year, picking up 23 points from their last 36 available. As a result, the Magpies have pulled ten points clear of the relegation zone after their recent win over Wolves at St. James’ Park.

Eddie Howe deserves a lot of credit for the Newcastle’s massive upturn in fortunes. The Magpies have not depended entirely on the calibre of the players they have brought in. Howe has been able to improve a lot of current players who were around when he initially arrived. Furthermore, competition for places has pushed players in the squad to step up their game.

The benefit of that recent success is the ability to begin early talks to sign their top targets this summer, with fear of dropping down to the second tier of English football non-existent. In what is set to be a huge summer revamp at the club, the new owners will aim to assemble a team capable of challenging for top honours in the coming years. This could be one of the most pivotal transfer windows in Newcastle’s history.

If Newcastle United are to climb through the Premier League table in 2022/23 and close the gap on the competition’s elite, it is imperative that they strengthen the squad in the right areas. Needless to say, the Magpies are the richest football club in the world following the completion of their takeover last year and have been linked with a whole host of high-profile targets ever since.

But that can be very misleading, and a recent report by Daily Telegraph has suggested that Newcastle are likely to rule out making any expensive superstar signings as the club’s hierarchy intends to pursue a realistic policy. And rightly so, the financial mess at Everton  is a prime example of an unsustainable model of exorbitant overspending.

The Toon should invest wisely and should target quality over quantity because they already boast a bloated squad. Given the lack of quality depth all over the pitch, they might look to bolster their squad in multiple areas, but they must improve in at least these three positions: central defence, defensive midfield, and centre-forward. The Hard Tackle now looks at three players Newcastle United should pursue ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Matthias Ginter: Borussia Monchengladbach, free

It would hardly be surprising to see Newcastle not reinforce the central defensive department, given the fact they only signed one centre-back in January, when it was reported that Eddie Howe wanted at least two new central defenders in the winter window.

Considering the Magpies had one of the worst defences in the division before January, Howe did very well to shore up at the back. Newcastle have not conceded more than one goal in any of their games but one since the start of the year. But with Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez expected to leave St. James’ Park and Fabian Schar out of contract at the end of the season, they need at least one central defensive reinforcement this summer.

Lille defender Sven Botman, 22, was top of their wish list after the club received encouragement that he was eager to join the rebuild on Tyneside. Despite having multiple bids rejected in January, Newcastle were keen on reviving their pursuit of Botman in the summer. But their prospects of acquiring the Dutchman’s signature appear to be dwindling.

AC Milan are poised to land the Dutch defensive powerhouse and have a verbal agreement over a five-year deal. The player reportedly prefers a move to AC Milan and is said to be closing in on a switch to San Siro. This comes as a blow to Newcastle, who will now have to look elsewhere.

As such, our pick, Matthias Ginter, will be a decent option for the Tyneside outfit and a bargain because he will be available for a Bosman move when the summer rolls around. Indeed, the 28-year-old has stated that he will not be renewing his contract with Borussia Monchengladbach at the end of this season.

Ginter has a wealth of top-level experience under his belt, with 289 Bundesliga appearances to go with 46 senior caps for Germany, including involvement in the 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning squad. Primarily a ball-playing right-footed centre-back who naturally operates on the right-hand side, the ex-Borussia Dortmund man’s strengths clearly lie in possession and particularly ball progression, as his passing and carrying metrics really catch the eye.

Looking at the percentile data from FBref, it becomes even clearer; he ranks among the top 10 percentile of central defenders in Europe’s Big Five leagues for progressive passes, carries, touches, shot-creating actions, and Non-Penalty Expected Goals plus xG Assisted.

This is a huge improvement on what Fabian Schar is producing for Newcastle at the moment, and with Howe likely to transition to a more possession-oriented and vertical progressive game next season, signing a quality ball-playing defender like Ginter could go a long way towards doing that.

Although his defensive numbers appear to be mediocre at best, pairing him up with a high defensive action stalwart like Dan Burn should complement both the players. It remains to be seen whether Newcastle’s wealth can persuade Ginter to join their intriguing project ahead of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

Yves Bissouma: Brighton & Hove Albion, €35 million

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As well as toughening up at the back, Newcastle need to improve further up their spine in the holding midfield position. The midfield department has emerged as the strongest area in the squad since Howe’s arrival at the club. So much so, that it took classy January signing Bruno Guimaraes the best part of two months to break into the starting eleven.

Newcastle United have a gem on their hands in Guimaraes, and he could be a key figure in their quest for success in the coming seasons. A jack of all midfield trades, the Brazilian is a complete midfielder who loves a tackle. But utilising him in a holding midfield role could hinder his stellar progressive attributes.

Meanwhile, Joelinton’s transformation into a dynamic box-to-box midfielder has helped massively in the second line of the press, as has Joe Willock regaining his strides. As such, Jonjo Shelvey is operating in the defensive midfield role. And while the Englishman can dictate the play well on his day, he evidently lacks the physicality and dynamism to break up the play.

The back-four needs shielding by a player who can not only win the ball back and press hard, but also dictate the tempo. To that end, our pick, Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma, will be an excellent choice for the North East outfit as he will inject a lot of quality, steel and even more stability in the middle of the park and could help them challenge for European football in the coming seasons.

His defensive traits are simply exceptional; an aggressive presser and a tough tackler, Bissouma has the intelligent positional sense to snuff out danger with well-timed tackles and interceptions instead of lunges or fouls. He explodes in the midfield area with his defensive output, averaging around a combined six tackles and interceptions, enough to rank him in the top sixth percentile of midfielders in Europe’s Big Five leagues.

The Malian international is also very quick and has the recovery pace, coverage, dribbling ability, and acceleration in the midfield to initiate quick transitions. Not to mention, he has been an integral part of Graham Potter’s efficient system that creates a multitude of high-quality opportunities while surrendering fewer shots, earning him interest from Liverpool and several other clubs.

The 25-year-old’s technical ability on the ball, along with his physical prowess, allows him to assert himself more in the game. His assurance and control on the ball, decent range of passing, and effectiveness in breaking up play make the Liverpool target an irrepressible midfield dynamo with a terrific engine.

Newcastle are about to start a great project, and Bissouma has got a wealth of experience in English football already and ticks the right boxes in terms of what the Magpies need this summer. He would not come cheap, though, with Brighton unlikely to lower their transfer demands. But with his contract expiring in 2023, it is worth exploring as far as Newcastle are concerned, although the competition from Liverpool could be fierce.

Alexander Isak: Real Sociedad, €75 million

Newcastle United bound soon? (Photo by Anders Wiklung/AFP/Getty Images)
Newcastle United bound soon? (Photo by Anders Wiklung/AFP/Getty Images)

The final name on our list is a striker, given star centre-forward Callum Wilson’s fitness woes in the last couple of years. While Chris Wood has done well in Wilson’s absence by providing an outlet with his sheer physical presence and aerial notoriety, the New Zealand international has not been able to find the back of the net often, boasting a mere tally of five Premier League goals this season.

With Wilson, Newcastle have a very potent Premier League goal-scorer when fit and, with more supplies around him next season, the Englishman has the potential to easily hit the 20-goal mark in a full campaign. The Magpies were close to signing French prodigy Hugo Ekitike in January, only for the player to reject a late deadline day swoop over Newcastle’s relegation concerns at the time.

Given that Dwight Gayle, Wilson, and Wood are in their thirties, acquiring a younger striker this summer is necessary. In what could be a busy market for strikers this summer, with several elite clubs keen on adding one to their respective squads, it is unlikely Newcastle could convince the likes of Darwin Nunez, Victor Osimhen or Lautaro Martinez to join them.

The Tyneside outfit will have to turn their attentions elsewhere and recent reports have stated that they could yet return to sign 19-year-old Reims striker Ekitike in the summer, which would be a decent acquisition for the long term.

Our pick, though, is an ambitious swoop for Real Sociedad forward, Alexander Isak. The Swedish striking sensation’s goal-scoring numbers have tapered off slightly this term from their 2020/21 highs, which might have raised a few eyebrows and put some of the European bigwigs, like Liverpool, off him. But he has all the ingredients and potential to be the ideal modern striker to spearhead the Magpies’ attack over the next decade.

The 22-year-old represents a unique striker profile; at 6ft 4in, his pace, agility, and trickery are unconventional for a player of his physical frame, enabling him to physically impose himself as well as outmanoeuvre them aerially. At the same time, he can combine this with intelligent movement, exceptional technical ability and close control in tight spaces, making him a complete package.

The Swedish international can make some clever runs in behind the opposition and excels at bursting past defenders with rapid acceleration to create space to fire a shot himself and lay off to a teammate. Not to mention, his tally of 50 goal-contributions – 42 goals, eight assists – from 124 competitive appearances for Real Sociedad is very respectable.

At 22, Isak has got a very bright future ahead of him and has plenty of untapped potential, meaning the Magpies will do well to win the race for his services. At first, he may struggle to cope with the rigours of the Premier League. But pairing him alongside either Wood or Wilson could work well to get through his learning curve.

The Swedish striker will bring firepower to Newcastle United’s frontline and might be a suitable long-term replacement for Callum Wilson at St. James’ Park in the long run. But with Liverpool among the Swede’s prospective suitors, Newcastle United will have a battle on their hands in his pursuit.

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